The Phong Vũ Buffalo have captured the hearts of the League of Legends scene with their underdog run to the Group Stage of the Mid-Season Invitational. But despite the Buffalo’s newfound fame, most League fans are unlikely to pronounce their name correctly. Yes, including you.
Unlike other Vietnamese teams who have made waves on the international stage, such as the GIGABYTE Marines or EVOS Esports, the Phong Vũ Buffalo use Vietnam’s “Quốc ngữ” diacritical system in their name. This has (very understandably) tripped up a number of League players and commentators as they attempt to discuss the team.
The name “Phong Vũ” literally translates to “dance,” and is derived from the team’s main sponsor, Phong Vũ Computer. If you’re a native English speaker, your instinct might be to pronounce the word as “Fong Voo,” much like James “Dash” Patterson does in the above clip. While that’s not too far off, it’s decidedly not the Vietnamese pronunciation.
Let’s start with the first word. The key behind pronouncing “Phong” right is understanding the difference between the way Vietnamese speakers and English speakers say the “ng” sound. Try saying a word that ends with -ng, and pay attention to the shape of your mouth at the end—if you’re an English speaker, your mouth is probably open, perhaps in a slight smile shape.
Vietnamese people close their mouths while saying “ng”, causing the Vietnamese “ng” sound to come out like a combination between the American pronunciation of “ng” and the “m” sound. Listen to the clip below to hear the correct pronunciation of “Phong.”
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Now that you’ve learned the first part, let’s move on to “Vũ.” The basic pronunciation of this word is indeed “voo;” the difference lies in the diacritical mark, or tone indicator, above the vowel. The tilde actually indicates different tones depending on which dialect of Vietnamese is being spoken—Phong Vũ Computer is based in Ho Chi Minh City, so in this case, we’re going to go with the Southern Vietnamese pronunciation.
In South Vietnam, the tilde indicates a dipping tone, which means the speaker should start the vowel sound in a low tone and dip downwards before sweeping back upwards. This is hard to explain in text, so listen to the recording below to hear what I mean.
If you have both of those parts down, you’re basically done! The final step is to combine the two sounds, as in the clip below. Once you’ve nailed the combination, you’ll be a master at pronouncing Phong Vũ correctly. Congratulations!